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Power, Purpose, Principle and Vision


Steve Campbell

Steve Campbell

I know from responses to my Times columns and blogs that Word on the Street works pretty well according to its original purpose: To get people talking. I have my fans, and I have my enemies, and that doesn’t really matter.
The only thing that matters is to get intelligent people thinking about how we can make a great County, Province and Country just a little better with some thoughtful insight.
Some readers are tired of my constant rants against all levels of government, and, for one reason or another, are happy with the status quo. Others see that we could be better, if only we had a little more control of the governments’ actions, and a stronger role in the decision-making process.
Wolf Braun logs into the blog site on countylive, and I find he has a keen insight into the political world. I’ve asked him if I can excerpt his last response, to add to the discussion:
“First, all 3 levels of government are no longer operating according to their original PURPOSE – the reason why they were created in the first place. None of our 3 levels of government are driven by an established and agreed upon PURPOSE – why they exist. Established and agreed upon by ALL peoples. Instead, they are driven by special interest groups, political parties and their kids in short pants, bureaucrats and corporations…”
“Our elected officials and bureaucrats are NOT using a set of established and agreed upon PRINCIPLES when making important decisions that impact ALL of us.”
“If you don’t believe this, just check the websites of all political parties at both levels of government. You’ll be hard pressed to find a purpose or a set of principles focused on ALL peoples. The federal Liberals have a statement of purpose that focuses on several things including fund raising…”
“Democracy belongs to the people. Not government. Not corporations. Not special interest groups. It’s up to us to decide and agree on what purpose and principles we want for each level of government. Only then can we expect more from our governments.”

Unlike my usual rants, he comes closer to finding a workable solution. Perhaps if we know what we want from our governments, we’ll know what to look for, and the questions to ask, when the flurry of campaigning begins.
Holding the parties to a purpose and a set of principles may counteract the usual rhetoric of lowering taxes, promises of transparency, and the meaningless offer to “engage in discussion” with the electorate they pretend to serve.
Let’s face it, politicians have become little more than pitchmen selling their wares with flashy graphics and slogans:
“We’re overstocked, and we’re passing the savings on to you!”
I’ll add one more item to Wolf’s list, as it is something that has been bugging me lately.
As a society, I feel that the concept of Planning has fallen by the wayside. It’s a lack of Vision that leads to a lack of planning, and both seem to have suffered a horrible death.
In a high-tech modern world, it’s hard to look 20 or 30 years down the road. Things move so fast, sometimes we can’t look 24 hours down the road!
We live in an Instant Gratification world, and what we think we need today blocks out the long-term view.

As historian Peter Lockyer recently pointed out, it’s easy to pull down old buildings to meet the needs of new buyers. The future value of historic buildings is wasted on people who favour new development, unbridled progress, and the ‘tax base’ that goes along with it.
In conversation, one of our councillors agreed that the County’s heritage policy was based more on the whim of the moment than a long-term vision for our future.
Here’s an example I use to describe how a lack of vision actually costs us money.
When Town water came to Bloomfield, I was at one of the discussion meetings. My concern was: Bloomfield’s main growth spurt was in the 1800s. If you bring an unlimited water supply into a village stocked with 100-year-old septic tanks, the crap may literally hit the fan.
I suggested that, since the street was going to be torn up from end to end, that we take the opportunity to lay in a sewer line – even we we don’t hook it up right away to a treatment plant. And, while we’re at it, why not bury the hydro lines and phone cables?
The answer was no. Apparently Hydro won’t work with Bell, who won’t work with the County, etc. etc. So if you want those jobs done, you need to tear up the street again, and again. All because no-one can see the opportunities in working together toward a common goal.

Years ago Mayor Leo Finnegan gathered some community people to discuss a Vision for the County. The top two things the group hoped for was increased access to our inland waters and lakefront, and a strong and viable hospital for an aging population. It was promptly filed in a drawer and we all went home and patted ourselves on the back.
The threat of IWTs on the south shore and the popularity of waterfront real estate everywhere put a beating on the first, and the draconian plans of the Ministry of Health took a sledgehammer to the other.
So much for Vision. If the vision had turned into planning, we might not have lost control of our own future. Which is now our present.
On the good side – if you throw government, bureaucracies and corporations into the trash can, along with their self-serving and money-driven plans – the rest of us are pretty good at thinking ahead.

Take Wellington Rotary as an example. They saw opportunity in their beach and developed it, with their own fund-raising and their own hands-on labour. Now they’re turning their attention to the Millennium Trail, to help create something good, and long-lasting.
Build instead of destroy. Now there’s a concept.

To me, money comes and money goes. Some people spend their whole lives worried about how much they have, how long it will last, and what it might be doing right now. But, as they say, you can’t take it with you.
It’s far more important to leave a footprint in time. To do something that future generations can look back on and say: “I’m proud of that.”
That’s what history is all about. We’re making history right now, in the field of time. Will we be proud of it?

Filed Under: News from Everywhere ElseSteve Campbell

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  1. Wolf Braun says:

    Mark: ” The ultimate purpose of all political parties is to gain and hold power. ”

    So glad that Mark is participating in this discussion.

    For sure that is the world (retaining power) as it is now. But it’s not one that ALL Canadians want, or at least I don’t believe it is.

    I do believe that Canadians want to be protected by their government and to have a government that is working to ensure that ALL Canadians lives are enhanced.

    But government will only change if we retain control over ‘our’ democracy. Democracy belongs to the people, not the governments.

  2. Mark says:

    That’s a little deep. I believe political parties take on all sorts of purposes primarily to keep them in power or to acquire power. I believe they may not even truly believe in the purpose they put forward i.e. deregulation or GEA but if it serves them well in the quest for power it wins out. As for the LPC fundamental purposes or any other party it is pure window dressing that says the right thing and is all inclusive. Purpose can be transposed for policy or vice versa. I am not arguing with you, I just used the word purpose differently than how you are applying it. I have no trust in any of the political parties to do the right thing for those they supposedly represent. The Conservative party of Canada knows it should keep veterans offices open, it knows it should support the NDP’s motion to reduce service charges at ATM’s. But do they? No. That would make an opposing party look like they had answers and solutions to real problems and could be viewed as an alternative. So they vote against their heart and the constituents in order to keep power. The ultimate purpose of all political parties is to gain and hold power. That’s it for me until I get back onto the energy crisis rant. And it is a crisis for so many who just cannot pay these outrageous bills and put food on the table for children. Sad really!

  3. Wolf Braun says:

    It’s OK to disagree. So let me ask you to share your PURPOSE of Government at the federal level? Please try and keep it to one sentence so that it is easy to remember.

    Here’s what the Liberal Party of Canada’s Constitution puts forth as their Purposes… not that it’s plural. They have more than one. By my definition of Purpose – “the reason why any group, organization, corporation, etc exist” the LPC’s Purpose is inward looking and has little to do with serving ALL Canadians.

    BTW, the LPC is the only federal political party that uses the word PURPOSE. I would challenge people who have a membership to the LPC to be able to sit down and articulate their stated Purpose let alone remember.

    None of the other parties describe succinctly why they exist. Nor do they use the word purpose. So we’re left to try and figure out why they exist. And that simply leads to different understanding by Canadians.

    If political parties are unable to tell us why they exist it’s hard to believe that their members would understand, agree and be able to articulate the purpose of government.

    I’ll be interested in your comments after you’ve had a chance to read the below LPC Purpose. … Wolf
    From the LPC Constituion…again, note it’s plural. They have more than one…..

    The fundamental purposes of the Party are:
    (a) to participate in the public affairs of Canada by endorsing members of the Party as candidates of the Party for election to the House of Commons and
    2supporting their election;1(b) to advocate and support Liberal philosophies, principles and policies;c) to promote membership in the Party;(d) to raise money to support the fundamental purposes of the Party;(e) to provide a forum for members of the Party to have their say and influence the policies and platform of the Party;
    (f) to coordinate the activities of supporters of the Party;(g) to ensure equitable representation of aboriginal peoples at all levels of the Party; and(h) to seek to achieve a common ground of understanding among the people of the different provinces and territories of Canada.

  4. Mark says:

    I disagee. I believe these are 2 examples of a very defined and well plotted purpose by both political parties. To pander to big business and fill the party coffers in return,with no regard to the constituents.

  5. Wolf Braun says:

    ” This issue requires a citizen revolt, something Ontarians historically have no stomach for. ”

    I don’t think it requires a revolt Mark. BUT, it definitely requires citizen engagement. It’s citizens who control democracy, not the politicians and government. What’s need is a discussion and agreement what we want as the PURPOSE of Government. Along with that a discussion of what PRINCIPLES we want our government to follow when making tough decisions that impact all of us.

    ” I draw from that then that the Conservatives had a “Purpose” when they deregulated Ontario Hydro and the Liberals had a vision when they invented the Green Energy Act.”

    Actually neither. Those are policy decisions developed on Party ideology both of which had nothing to do with Purpose and Principles.

    Think of Purpose as being singular and a reason why we need government. For sake of discussion, think of this statement as a purpose for having a federal government….
    “The PURPOSE of Government is to protect and enhance the lives of ALL Canadians.” Full Stop ! You may not agree with that statement but you can participate in defining it.

  6. Mark says:

    I hope I am not hijacking this thread with my Energy rant but it is very much a good example of government gone wrong and moving against the public wishes. Today a day after the Ombudsman announced an investigation into Hydro One the company Hydro One had the gall to apply for a 9 + percent increase in user fees under the guise of improving customer service! Do you think they might look within in regards to the hundreds of + 100k salaries? Do you think they might cut out the free meals for non lineman. This issue requires a citizen revolt, something Ontarians historically have no stomach for.

  7. Mark says:

    I draw from that then that the Conservatives had a “Purpose” when they deregulated Ontario Hydro and the Liberals had a vision when they invented the Green Energy Act. Both were terrible errors that never served the public well. Perhaps we need a “Strategic Plan” that identifies the Ontario residents as the primary goal rather than big business.

  8. Wolf Braun says:

    ” Years ago Mayor Leo Finnegan gathered some community people to discuss a Vision for the County. ”

    I like Leo very much and appreciate all the work that he has done in the past and now his work with the Hospital Foundation. He’s a tireless worker for his community.

    However, there is a difference between PURPOSE and VISION. Purpose is very long term. Vision is a much shorter time frame that works within the purpose of government.

    Core PURPOSE is the reason for being for any organization including governments. It’s a much deeper description of why government exists than a vision. A PURPOSE is the hinge that everything else hangs on. The simplest way to explain PURPOSE as it relates to governments is: PURPOSE is a definitive statement about the difference governments are trying to make in the world for ALL people.

    The textbook definition of purpose is: “The object toward one strives or for which something exists”. Given that none of our governments or political parties have a well defined, easily understood and articulated purpose it’s no wonder that we really don’t see or understand what they are striving for? Political parties cater mostly to their ideological base… left vs right… or somewhere in the middle.

    It’s up to ALL people to determine the answers to those questions.

    With a PURPOSE in place decision making by our elected officials and bureaucrats becomes much easier. Our politicians can look at an opportunity or a challenge and ask themselves, “Is this right thing to do given our purpose? Does this protect and enhance the lives of ALL people?

    In short, leaders driven to fulfill a purpose will make decisions to ensure that the purpose is never violated.

  9. BH says:

    We should stop twittering our fingers and vote for a governor to rule our insula.
    My vote would go to Steve Campbell.
    (and by the way – could you get somebody to clean my road of snow)

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